Summit Communications : Managing drinking
water distibution to the population is an
important task. Could you tell us the course
that brought you to the position of Chief
Executive Officer of REGIDESO ?
Pof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : I am a graduate
in civil ingeneering, specialized in mecanics
from the University of Kinshasa. Then, I
went for further studies in Belgium, at
the end of which I became professor in the
polytechnics school, at the University of
Kinshasa. I joined REGIDESO in 1977 in the
training department. Then, I was promoted
to the position of the Training Manager,
Research Manager; Human Resources Manager
for a about ten years, finally; I was appointed
as a Chief Executve Officer in 2001 before
being an advisor.
Summit Communications : Would you briefly
tell us the story of REGIDESO ?
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : REGIDESO was
founded in 1939 and was in charge of water
and electricity production and distribution.
In 1960, right after the independence; the
government decided to hand the responsability
of producing and distributing electricity
to the State Company of Electricity (SNEL)
and on the other hand; REGIDESO has been
merely in charge of treating, supplying
and commercializing drinking water within
urban areas. Generally speaking, the growth
was relatively slow because the urban areas
were few before the independence. The rural
exodus phenomenon, after the independence
contributed to a fast urbanization, enhancing
therefore activities of REGIDESO.
Moreover, The International Community decreed
the 80's as the international decade of
Water and cleaning-up, this brought in lots
of foreign assistance from multilateral
and bilateral partners. This assistance
helped quick progress : two or three harnessing,
treating and distributing water centers
had been being opened each year, so that
we reached 94 operating centres. REGIDESO
remained a state-owned company ever since.
Summit Communications : REGIDESO has
experienced a great past mainly in the 80's.
What would you say about its last five years
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : Undoubtedly,
they were hard years because of the repeated
civil wars. The first one, started in 1996
and finished by the ousting of Mobutu's
collapsing regime in 1997 and Laurent D.Kabila
came into power .
Straight away in 1988, a second war commenced
and ended only in 2003. Throughout all these
years, the country was split and the company
as well. Presently, we are in a post-conflict
period and we are trying to gather all elements
in order to resume slowly all the management
of the company.
Besides, It was only in 2004 that we could
produce the first financial statement of
the whole company after seven years of war.
All these wars have significantly destroyed
our facilities inside the country and we
were just controling 55 centers out of 94.
Presently, we need some investments to resume
our activies all over the country.
Summit Comminications : You pubished
the income for the year 2005 that is of
12 billions congolese francs (24 million
US dollars). What are the basic elements
to be restored in order to resume efficiently
your activities ?
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO: First, we rely
on our staff that have developped a certain
home-made mind. They succeeded in keeping
our facilities in an acceptable operating
condition, even during the war time that
was peculiarly hard. Second, we are relying
on foreign support from our backers who
sufficiently trust in us and we intend executing
different projects during this year. Mostly,
these projects focus on restoring capacities
in most big centers that escaped from the
war. In terms of priority, we have to rehabilitate
the existing facilities in order to assure
a minimum operation or even the maximum.
First, we have to get back former capacities
and then we can develop and extend. That
is why, we did not add other new centers
to the current projects. They will be achieved
roughly within 5 years.
Summit Communications : What are the
current challenges to be faced by REGIDESO
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : There have been
very important moves of the populations
towards urbanized areas. Let me get the
example of Kinshasa, the population is estimated
nowadays up to 6 million inhabitants while
our network capacity of supplying is only
4 million Inhabitants. The people's concentration
within urbanized areas represents indeed
an important challenge for us. Therefore,
millennium goals require supplying drinking
water to 50% of people who don't have access
to it by 2015. That is why, we do not want
to open new centers because of this very
important challenge. On the contrary, we
would like first of all to focus on centers
that we have already set up, that implies
an increase of servicing rate which supposed
to shift from 60% to 90%. Afterwards, we
will move to other areas.
Summit Communications : What are urbanized
areas in Congo in which you are concentrated
to supply water ?
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : Presently, for
two reasons, we will begin in Kinshasa :
first, because it is a crowded town and
second, it will have multiplier impact:
i.e. the invested money may be gotten back
in order to be invested elsewhere. Apart
from Kinshasa, we have chosen other similar
towns in the West part such as : Lubumbashi,
Mbuyimayi, and Boma. As the war is over,
we have added other reunified towns of the
East part; mainly the town of Kisangani
that is afresh a big center. We are bound
to start first of all by big towns likely
to bring money. Then, that money will contribute
to go remote places in country: Right away,
we would like to privilege the marketing
concerns rather than social ones because
every thing should transpire in a specific
time. Our strategy is "to supply a
little water for everybody" : we cannot
admit that some get access to water all
the day long while others do not Currently,
we wish to supply water for about 10 hours
while others can get supplied for about
3 hours. That allows making water supply
as we have reached the required supplying
level. Yet, it is not longer the comfort
but it is very important regarding sanitary
and social standpoint.
Summit Communications : The situation
seems to be paradoxal knowing that Congo
is one of the biggest water reserves in
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : We do not have
resource problems but investments and mentalities
ones. Congolese estimate that water is God's
work, therefore, it must be free of charge
for everybody. But currently, they do not
realize that drinking water is an industrialized
product of which the processing requires
machines, staff, accrued wages and strength
to spend. We are bound to explain towards
the population that REGIDESO does not sell
out water but rather services that bring
water towards houses or straigthfoward close
to it, after making it drinkable.
Summit Communications: If you have to
make a record of water heritage of DRC,
how much you may rate its resources?
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO: If we can take
Congo's map and draw lines in all over the
rivers; I bet you that the entire surface
will be covered by lines. In other areas
of the country, you cannot trace a road
without build up a bridge every 10 kilometers
or even 5. In fact, we have a significant
mass of soft water: Congo River only represents
the second river in the world from its spring.
It crosses twice the Equator. Notably, it
offers an advantage of a regular delivery,
because when it doesn't rain in the South
part but it does in the North part and vice
versa. I acknowledge that thanks to the
Congo river, its affluent and all the lakes,
we do not have problems with water supply
in foremost villages which is not the case
comparing to many African countries.
Summit Communications : What are your
headlines for your cooperative and developing
projects for a better resources operations
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : We are involved
in treating and supplying drinking water.
Yet, being in water field, we attend conferences
and in fact there are projects in exporting
water but crude water. For instance, we
export water to Libya. Nearly going towards
North, Tchadians are making survey to bring
water from Congo River in order to supply
Tchadan Lake which is drying out. We have
another project for Southern Africans in
framework of SADC, Namibia and South Africa
that almost are desert and don't have a
lot of water. There are 3 big projects in
connection with exploiting and exporting
water resources. However, it takes a survey
on environmental consequences and trying
to avoid overthrowing ecology, generally
Summit Communications : Progressively,
you develop within the REGIDESO a servicing
corporate mentality. What are fields of
your activities on which you need more cooperation
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO: Now, cooperation
is truly necessary, a bit less in technical
field but rather than in management and
specifically in business management. For
instance, up to now, we have never integrated
the marketing aspect yet. As a state company,
we find out that it is normal because we
have got the monopoly in the sector. However,
we must have a good relationship with our
customers to sell suitably our product.
Likewise, financial analysis aspects are
Summit Communications : You have launched
a big collection campaign in order to oblige
subscribers to pay regularly their water
bills. How can you manage the strategy in
terms of relationship with your consumers?
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO: That's where the
faction is because our customers think that
water consumption should be free of charge.
We must admit that the populations are not
wealthy. Subscribers compare the sum of
the bill with the salary and come to complain,
that is impossibile to pay their bills.
Regarding it, it is not easy to convince
them, we are bound to set up the amount
comparing stationary costs : processing
drinking water per cubic meter, importation
of products from abroad, wage and electrical
costs and so forth. Otherwise, our marketing
policy of supplying water in credit makes
subscribers' collection extremely hard.
Actually, collection operation does not
lack disadvantages. Each month, our agents
are bound to collect from "house to
house", that can cause conflict situations,
even more favoritism situations towards
friends or agents' close friends in question.
In case the situation is decaying, we must
sometimes hinder the process going on by
constraining customer to pay his bill. Then,
the task is not easy because we have to
adopt a firm and severe behavior either
to subscribers or our own agents ! We have
to opt a prepaid System.
Summit Communications : Let's say even
though it is hard practice, you have performed
big projects and financial backers gave
an outstanding confidence, because sector
of water benefit of several assistance program.
How do you intend doing your cooperation
with different financial backers and international
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : Everything runs
smoothly for us. We are getting contacts
at the multilateral level with the World
Bank, European Union, African Development
Bank. We are in the process of reestablishing
a relationship with certain countries namely
France, Germany and Belgium as well. We
also expect restarting our relationship
with other Asian countries because the president
of the Republic has recently made an important
trip towards these countries. We have a
growing relationship but considering our
needs, I can tell you that we are not satisfied
yet. We have received a lot of promises
but so far outstanding payments are delayed.
Thanks to the World Bank, an energy program
split over three years has been implemented,
and REGIDESO considered as leaders has paid
50% of the amount. But other companies have
just paid a mere 5%. The main financial
backers are as follows : World Bank that
should pay 80M USD dollars, European Union
: 20 M USD, ABD 10 M USD. But many projects
are still on paper.
Summit Communications : How much are
your projects bill estimated ?
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : Our projects
bill is estimated of 620 M USD, and financial
backers theoretically have already agreed
to finance it. However, during the last
meeting here in Kinshasa in September 2004,
financial backers promised to hand a sum
of 7 billion dollars to DRC. But possibly,
we don't really know when the first payment
will be done, probably after the elections.
Summit Communications : DRC is on the
way to becoming again one of the main components
in Africa. According to your opinion, what
will be its place in the next 5 years?
Prof, Lubunga, REGIDESO: I think even though
we remain the leading company, we will be
unable to keep our legitimate place, regarding
our human potential as well as our material
one. At least, we will come out of a crisis
condition. During the 80's, we were not
requesting assistance but rather loans that
we were able to pay back. Now, we are to
rely on assistance before restarting accordingly.
Summit Communications : What is the
image you wish to outline to the American
readers when we are talking about the DRC?
Prof. Lubunga, REGIDESO : In the Bible
the prophet Ezechiel got a vision about
dried bones on the battlefield beginning
to take flesh. That is the view that I have
for my country; once burnt with fire but
now we are trying to raise up from the ashes.
It is a new country with lots of potential,
mainly in its population, not mentioning
its soil and subsoil richness which are
legendary. Thus, the Democratic Republic
of Congo has a glorious future.